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EdCan Network News

2020 EdCan Network Pat Clifford Award Winners Announced: Dr. Jean-Philippe Ayotte-Beaudet, LJ Slovin and Jennifer Plosz

TORONTO — October 22, 2020 

EdCan is proud to announce that Dr. Jean-Philippe Ayotte-Beaudet (Full Professor, Department of Preschool and Primary Education, l’Université de Sherbrooke), LJ Slovin (Doctoral Candidate, University of British Columbia), are PhD-level co-winners and Jennifer Plosz (Masters Graduate, Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary) is the Master’s level winners of the 2020 Pat Clifford Award for Early Career Education Research.


Science Learning Can Be Measured by More than an Assessment

Jean-Philippe Ayotte-Beaudet’s research on outdoor education has the potential to greatly impact students’ interest in learning science.

EdCan is pleased to honour Dr. Jean-Philippe Ayotte-Beaudet (Full Professor, Department of Preschool and Primary Education, l’Université de Sherbrooke) – as the PhD-level co-recipient of the 2020 Pat Clifford Award for Early Career Research in Education. This prestigious award recognizes Dr. Ayotte-Beaudet’s research, which enables teachers to offer science education activities in outdoor settings so that students can enjoy authentic learning experiences while mobilizing their scientific knowledge.

“I am looking at how to teach biodiversity by engaging teachers in citizen science projects that take place outdoors,” explains Dr. Ayotte-Beaudet. “More recently, I conducted similar work-from-home projects during the pandemic, involving 120 elementary teachers and 300 students, so that teachers could deliver distance learning about the impact of climate change on biodiversity.”

Dr. Ayotte-Beaudet’s research is founded on the idea that in addition to academic assessments, we must create spaces for science teachers to question their own pedagogical practices and for students to mobilize their scientific knowledge in a variety of meaningful, everyday settings if learning is to be sustainable. As Co-director of University of Sherbrooke’s Center for Research on Science Teaching and Learning, Dr. Ayotte-Beaudet has mobilized research that contributes to the advancement of knowledge on educational issues associated with the teaching and learning of scientific disciplines at school. Dr. Ayotte-Beaudet has also launched the Des Sciences Dehors (Sciences Outside) website in collaboration with teachers that provides educators with activities and resources for outdoor education.

“Jean-Philippe’s research fosters student interest in biodiversity and enables them to spend more time in nature closeby to their schools,” says Dr. Heather Kanuka, Chair of the EdCan Awards Committee and Full Professor at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Education. “And he is influencing an increasing number of teachers to advocate for outdoor education pedagogy once they see how relevant and inspiring it is for their students.”


Creating Inclusive Spaces for All Sexualities and Genders in Schools

LJ Slovin’s research on sexual orientation and gender identity has the potential to transform education for gender non-conforming (GNC) youth in Canada.

The EdCan Network is pleased to honour LJ Slovin, (Doctoral Candidate, University of British Columbia) – as the PhD level co-recipient of the 2020 Pat Clifford Award for Early Career Research in Education. This prestigious award recognizes Slovin’s groundbreaking research, which is poised to generate new approaches for inclusive and successful learning environments for GNC youth across Canada.

“Since GNC youth defy the dominant gender and sexuality norms that operate in North American schools, they often face challenges regarding their safety and success in formal educational spaces,” explains Slovin. “As a non-binary researcher, my work interrogates the complexity of gender nonconforming youths’ experiences in schools through a focus on how they navigate relationships with teachers, peers, policies, and curriculum.”

As an emerging scholar, Slovin has made substantive contributions to this significant equity issue in education with their work influencing Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) policy in British Columbia. Notably, Slovin’s doctoral research is inspired and guided by youth and explores the ways they engage in the schooling process and their desires for innovative approaches to SOGI education, which has also led Slovin to develop and lead professional development workshops for teachers. Though these workshops began at the local level, their potential transcends municipal and provincial borders. “This work is key to understanding how GNC students might feel connected and engaged in schooling processes and how teachers might consider how to teach all students more inclusively,” explains Slovin.

“LJ Slovin’s research is so well grounded in how it directly involved GNC youth, provides professional learning for teachers, and addresses the discrimination and harassment youth face,” says Dr. Heather Kanuka, Chair of the EdCan Awards Committee and Full Professor at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Education. “This topic is so important and there’s a huge need in our education systems to address a re-thinking of the implications of traditional binary constructions that can impact schools across Canada.”


Navigating a Visual Path to Learning Math

Jennifer Plosz’s research is helping educators understand how dyslexia impacts mathematics learning, counteracting the prevailing deficit narrative associated with these students, who struggle with school at an early age.

EdCan is pleased to honour Jennifer Plosz, Master’s graduate at the University of Calgary’s Werklund School of Education – as the Master’s-level category recipient of the 2020 Pat Clifford Award for Early Career Research in Education. This prestigious award recognizes Ms. Plosz’s ongoing research, which focuses on visualizing mathematical images during learning – particularly among students with dyslexia – which has the potential to assist teachers in engaging special needs students’ untapped abilities to excel at math.

“Math really is about growing and creating a mini universe in your head,” says Plosz, who is a dyslexic learner herself. “Canadian school systems tend to label dyslexic students as ‘learning-disabled,’ and I counteract this deficit-only view by developing teaching resources, prompts, and problems designed to engage these students’ visualization capabilities.”

Plosz’s work recognizes that Canadian classrooms are diverse – neurologically, culturally, and linguistically. Her research explores how teachers can engage students through their senses to assist them in growing mathematical images for their minds that support deep learning and understanding. By focusing on the development of visualization skills, Plosz is inviting mathematics classrooms to increase their engagement with the established interconnection between spatial reasoning and mathematics. The growth of these mental images is not only productive in mathematical thinking but is also more inclusive for neurologically diverse students who are often strong visualizers. This more visual approach also supports students with language barriers. Jennifer actively mobilizes her research with colleagues in the teaching profession and enacts her vision in her own classroom within the Calgary Board of Education. She has shown great initiative in her career, offering many workshops and professional development sessions to both teachers and parents in order to promote a more inclusive approach to mathematics education.

“Jennifer’s passion for helping teachers to ensure that neurologically diverse students thrive is making an important contribution to mathematics education in Canada.”says Dr. Heather Kanuka, Chair of the EdCan Awards Committee and Full Professor at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Education.


About the Pat Clifford Award

For over ten years, the Pat Clifford Award has recognized the work of emerging researchers – their research contributions, their promise, and their commitment to breaking new ground or revisiting commonly held assumptions in education policy, practice or theory in Canada. Three Pat Clifford Awards were bestowed in 2020 – two for the PhD-level researcher and the other for a Master’s-level researcher.

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